STL Science Center

STL Science Center

06 July 2013

What Does a Tiny Hunter Look Like?

As I mentioned yesterday, Juravenator is thought to be a juvenile specimen, indicating that the miniscule size of the specimen is not the full adult size of the animal. I still happen to think that this a very sad thing because a teeny dinosaur like this would be pretty fantastic. At barely half a meter from tip to tail having a Juravenator for a pet would be a pretty good reality (and given the exotic nature of some pets a high probability scenario) if they were still alive and the juvenile turned out to be an adult. The problem with not having an adult of course is that it may turn out that this juvenile might be freshly hatched and only 1/5 or maybe even 1/10 the size of an adult, perhaps less even. What would something this size, regardless of adult or juvenile status, living on the coast of the Tethys Ocean eat? One obvious answer, for any carnivorous or omnivorous animal living on a shoreline is fish, whether hunted or scavenged. Scavenging for a coastal predator means nearly anything that washes up in a state that is edible becomes fair game for dinner and competition amongst the predators that find it. Additionally, other scavengers, mammals, young from many other types of animals (or their own kind perhaps), and perhaps even vegetation may have been on the menu as well.

The skull of Juravenator, though a little crushed, preserved a lateral view of the mouth quite well. All indications by the teeth concerning diet point to a pretty voracious little carnivore. The teeth are fairly thin front to back and a fair number of the larger teeth curve backwards, a design that we know aids in retention of prey items as well as in slicing material. Those teeth that are not curved backwards appear to point straight down and have nearly the same front to back thickness as those that are curved backwards. These different teeth may be due to preservational issues or they may have been used in a different manner; however, preservational bias seems to be the more accurate answer as some of these differently shaped teeth also appear to be slightly damaged. If, however, they were used for a different purpose, it appears that that purpose would be to anchor the jaw, as though for gripping, rather than slicing or holding down onto live prey. That sort of mechanism would only be really useful to a predator that was using its hands or feet to tear at meat and more than likely it would rather use hands and feet together; this is why deformation of the teeth in preservation seems a more likely explanation.

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